Welcome to the automated laboratory
Automated operations are helping the Qlip central milk testing (CMT) laboratory at Zutphen, the Netherlands to keep step with evolving demands while providing a more flexible service for farmers and dairies.
An ultra efficient testing system based on automated sample transport and radio frequency identification (RFID) allows the laboratory to handle around 9000 samples per day in the payment testing laboratory and 40.000 to 60.000 samples per day in the dairy herd improvement (DHI) testing laboratory.
The analysis results are provided by a fleet of FOSS analysers fitted with robot pipette systems for automatic transfer of the milk. The analysers consist of CombiFoss instruments for compositional and somatic cell count analysis, stand-alone MilkoScan instruments and BactoScan analysers for bacterial count in the payment line.
The set up is about more than just processing lots of samples though. “The system provides flexibility down to the individual sample” says Operations manager Harrie van den Bijgaart.
From standard tests to management information
The automated systems have been several years in the making and the whole project started in response to evolving demands for milk testing.
For instance, the advent of automated milking systems has renewed interest in the testing of free fatty acids (FFA). Another relatively new test is for the unsaturated fatty acid content of milk. The parameter is used for payment to 400 farmers involved in a scheme to provide milk with a desired fatty acid profile, subsequently used in products containing higher levels of healthier omega-3 and CLA fatty acids. The test is performed simultaneously with the regular tests and therefore requires very little in operational terms for the laboratory.
Read the full story in the latest edition of In Focus, no.1, 2010, page 8, available on the In Focus page.